Jemaa El Fna Square
Medina, Marrakech 44000, Morocco
Prices: $1-$10 per person[/one_half] [one_half_last]
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The food stalls at Jemaa el Fna, the main square in Marrakech, start setting up between 4:30 and 6PM each afternoon. Most open around 6:30, some earlier, some later. It’s worthwhile to arrive in the square by mid afternoon, pick a cafe with a rooftop bar and watch the transition in the square from day to evening.
Atmosphere & Service
The atmosphere in the square is crazy. The earlier you get here, the better chance of finding a seat at the food stall you’ve picked. Seating is cramped. You’ll probably be sitting facing one of your new best friends, over a “table” that’s barely 24″ wide. You’ll also be packed in right next to one of your fellow diners.
If you’re having trouble selecting a place to stop, don’t worry. Most of the food stall vendors will be cat calling you, shoving menus in your face and trying to convince you that they have the best food ever. While it’s all part of the excitement and fun, you’re best bet is to ask your hotel what food stalls they recommend. We found our hotel somewhat reluctant to make a recommendation, as this is local food and they were worried that we weren’t accustomed to that. Local food is what we live for. One of the guides we hired for the day, gave us his recommendations and they were spot on. We’ll share those with you below.
You have all kinds of food choices in the square. Experiment. The food prices are so cheap, that even if you don’t like it, you can just move on to another stall without wasting much money.
Stall #14 was our favorite. It featured fish and chips. Go early, because its good, it fills up fast. You’ll be sharing your eating space that’s about the size of a place mat, with at least 1 or 2 other people. And, forget silverware or napkins. This is a food stall, not fine dining. The minute you sit down, you’ll get a small round of bread, eggplant and tomato salsa. That will be followed by a plate of calamari, fries and you’re choice of fish (full filet or fish chunks), deep fried to perfection just a few steps from where you’re sitting. The fish tasted great. You could tell it was fresh and it had no fishy aftertaste. We were advised to order the fish chunks, as they had less bones in them. Wrong. Next time, we’d go for the filets. In the filets, you’d at least know where the bones were. That’s almost impossible with the fish chunks.
The calamari was cooked just right and the tomato salsa was to die for. Sop it up with your bread or use it as a dipping sauce for the fish. It was rather addictive. Since you don’t have any napkins, you can use the small sheet of butcher paper which is your placemat or, just ask for another piece of bread. It works as the perfect napkin.
Other stalls recommended to us were Stall #1 and Stall #31. We didn’t make it to those, because we ate so much at Stall #14
Morocco is one of the world’s largest growers and exporters of oranges. Both day and night, you’ll find orange juice stalls on the east side of Jemaa el Fna square. A fresh squeezed glass of OJ is a great way to cool off in the heat of the Moroccan sun. Many of the colorful stands offer glasses of juice for around 50 US cents for an 12 oz glass. But as with all things, buyer beware. Many of the stands are elevated and don’t squeeze the juice in front of you. We were warned by a couple of locals that many stands dilute the juice with water.
They’re recommendation was to try Stand #59, located on the far eastern side of the square, for 100% undiluted juice. They were right. You have a choice of orange or grapefruit and the juice is amazing. One look at the deep orange color and you can tell it’s all juice. If that doesn’t convince you, the taste will.
You can’t beat the food stalls on the square for great deals on decent food. It’s also a great place to watch people and enjoy the energy of Marrakech. The hard part, is choosing what you want to eat and then not eating too much!